gavel.jpgTwo East Bay wheelchair users and a disability service organization sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in federal court in San Francisco today for allegedly failing to provide accessible point-of-service machines.

The lawsuit against the discount store chain was filed by the Berkeley-based Independent Living Center, Janet Brown, of Pittsburg, and Lisa Kilgore, of San Pablo.

Both women rely on wheelchairs and say that they can’t use the computerized point-of-sale checkout terminals in their local Pittsburg and Richmond Wal-Mart stores because the terminals are the wrong height.

Point-of-sale terminals enable customers to pay for their purchases by swiping a credit or debit card and entering a personal identification number, or PIN.

The lawsuit claims that Wal-Mart’s alleged failure to provide adequate access violates the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the world’s largest retailer.

Company spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said, “Walmart takes it seriously anytime questions or allegations are raised about our ADA compliance.

“We have a deep respect for all of our associates and customers, and we are committed to serving those with disabilities. Our goal is that every POS machine be accessible within the regulations and guidelines of the ADA and California law,” Whaling said.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that Wal-Mart has installed accessible lower terminals in some stores, but has failed to replace older equipment in other stores.

The lawsuit seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of all Wal-Mart customers who use wheelchairs or scooters as mobility aids and who have not been able to use point-of-sale terminals for their purchases.

It asks for a court order requiring Wal-Mart to provide accessible machines.

In a statement, Brown said, “I feel unsafe when I check out at Wal-Mart. I can’t reach the payment device on my own, read the display screen, enter my PIN or sign the screen to complete the transaction.

“I have to share my private PIN with the cashier, which I hate to do,” Brown said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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